This will be among the last of these posts. I can see that they are uninteresting to most folks. Soon I will return to the boots that are the roots of this blog.
Let’s see now, it’s five years later than the period of my last post. Where am I from 1993 to 1998?
I mentioned in Part 5 of this series that I was doing okay, had another challenging job, and started my doctoral studies, but I had a longing to find the right mate for the rest of my life.
I really was not looking that hard. A brother said, “you know, it’s like that old joke — someone asks God why he didn’t win the lottery, and God said, ‘you have to buy a ticket first’!” The analogy here was that I simply was not socializing anywhere with anyone. (I remind you that this was before widespread internet access and on-line dating sites.)
I had my excuses — mostly due to an overwhelming personal schedule. I was working two to three weeks each month for four years in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California. Between weeks in the Bay Area, I was traveling all over the entire United States for meetings, conducting training, and speaking at conferences. I still considered Maryland my home, but the Bay Area had become a home-away-from-home. Still, since I did not consider the Bay Area a place that I wanted to live permanently, I only went out occasionally with friends on my free weekends when I was back home in Maryland, which were seldom.
However, it was because I lived in the Bay Area that I began to understand gay culture. I overcame my fears in going to stores that made and sold leather garments; I realized that they’re there to sell a product, not to take you into the back room and….
I got comfortable going to gay bars on the occasional Sunday afternoon beer bust at the old San Fransisco Eagle, where I would nurse a ginger ale since by then I had stopped drinking alcohol. I still couldn’t stay awake at night, so late night parties or hanging out at bars on weekdays, or even weekends, just didn’t happen.
I struck up what became a strong friendship with Mike, the Owner of Stompers Boots — the original, not what it has morphed into today. I visited with Mike often, and learned from his kindness and mentorship. I guess that’s where I began my earnest interest in boots, especially motorcycle boots, cop boots, Wesco Boots, Dehner Boots, Chippewa Boots… you name it, if it had “biker” in the title, I learned about it, bought it, wore it, wore it out, played in it, rode my motorcycles with it, so forth and so on.
Funny, though, of all the time I spent in the Bay Area, my work brought me to other locations in the country during Folsom Street Fair, Dore Alley, and other notable leather-oriented events in San Francisco. I DID go to Folsom once — in 1993.
By 1993, my work in the Bay Area was coming to a close. I was returning to more full-time work at my office in DC. Earlier that year, I decided that I wanted to join an “MC” club in the DC area. I thought it would be fun to ride motorcycles with other gay men in boots and leather. After all, “MC” stands for “motorcycle,” right?
I could not be more wrong about MC clubs. I learned rather quickly that MC clubs — at least in DC — were composed of rather outspoken guys, most of whom displayed behaviors that demonstrated the side of gay culture that I disliked most. I will not describe further… let’s say that my expectations of riding motorcycles with gay men in boots and leather were the last thing that these clubs actually did, or at least the one that I joined in 1993.
However, the best thing about my brief affiliation with one of those clubs was that I met the man who became my lifemate, partner, spouse, bikerbeef, leather stud, best half, best friend, and everything else.
He, too, joined the same club that I did to learn about the DC gay culture. He had just relocated to the DC area from another area of the U.S. for his job.
We met when the club participated in the April, 1993, “March On Washington” for gay rights. We continued dating, visiting, staying with each other every weekend since the weekend we met.
I found someone who had similar values as I did. He cared deeply for his family. He did not squander money. He had his head on straight and was my intellectual equal. I pretty much knew after our third or fourth weekend together that he was “the one.” I sensed that he felt the same way about me.
He was romantic, cuddly, wild (sometimes), and together, we explored new things to me — like going to Folsom in San Francisco, MAL in Washington, and even Stonewall 25 in New York City. We tried once to go on a “club run” but we both didn’t like it, and never went again. We donned full leather and spent many a Saturday night at the Baltimore Eagle, having courage to ride two-up on my motorcycle (we didn’t drink alcohol, but we were lucky not to get hit by other drunks out late at night.)
In 1994, we bought my first Harley. We inaugurated it by riding two-up to Oklahoma to visit my aunt and family on the family ranch, and to explore U.S. states that my partner had not yet seen.
In 1995, we rode the Harley two-up to Sturgis, South Dakota, to fulfill my bucket-list item for seeing what that motorcycle rally was all about. We also explored many new sights and states new to my partner. (Not new to me because my job sent me everywhere throughout the entire United States, its territories, and possessions.)
In early 1996, we flew for the first of six trips to Australia and New Zealand–burning up those frequent-flier miles earned for all the domestic travel that I did for my job. Man, we had great times Down Under, including Mardi Gras in Sydney, and renting a Harley and riding the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Adelaide. I taught courses in New Zealand, and also rented a Harley and rode two-up all around the South Island. What fantastic scenery!
Back home, in November, 1996, I was elected to a non-partisan regional community position where I represented a geographic district of my home county and advocated or served as a go-between regarding transportation, school boundaries, zoning, building, roads, and so forth. I was asked to run for that office by — guess who — that same person who took me under her wing to help me find my first job, and who also wrote a terrific letter of recommendation for my doctoral scholarship.
By 1997, we decided “enough with living apart. Let’s find a home together.” We looked and looked, and for various reasons, we could not find anything that one or the both of us liked or wanted to pay for (that is, some houses were quite nice, but beyond our price range.) We knew that we wanted to live in Maryland rather than DC (we both are not city boys and never liked the weird political situation that is the Federal District of Columbia). We also did not want to live in Virginia because that state’s politics was downright hateful to same-sex couples.
Plus — I was serving in elective office. I had to live in the geographic area of the county of my birth in Maryland (that is, if I wanted to continue in office. Residency was required!)
My partner didn’t like the houses that I owned in Maryland because they were too small. Fine for a single guy, but not what we wanted for space to spread out “his stuff,” “my stuff,” and “our stuff.” He wanted a yard, shade-providing trees, and some land for more separation between houses for some privacy.
In late 1997, I decided to buy an old farm that once belonged to the parents of a high school classmate. That farm was smack-dab in the middle of the geographic region that I was elected to serve. I negotiated a fair price for that farmland, but I had to take out a million dollar construction loan to finance the deal. Yikes! Biggest loan I’ve ever had, and one that I will never have again.
While it was a heck of a bureaucratic battle to get permission and permits, I subdivided the farm into individual home sites, while allowing the original owner to keep her house as long as she lives (she’s still living there today!) I sold the other home sites on the subdivided former farm, and the home site sales almost (not quite) paid back the construction loan which was used to cover costs of buying the original property, attorney fees required for subdivision, and building infrastructure (road, sidewalks, landscaping, utility easements, stormwater retention pond, etc.)
My partner and I sat down with my brother-the-architect and designed a modest, but adequately-sized house to build on the best home site in the small subdivision (heck, as the owner, I had the pick of the lots!) Our home site is 80% wooded, quiet, and serene, yet just a few blocks away from a main road with quick access to stores, shopping, and Metro.
I was working such long hours, I had built up a ton of leave, so I took three months — MONTHS — off work in late Spring and Summer of 1998 and supervised construction of our house. I contracted for the foundation to be dug as I can’t really operate heavy equipment. But I swung many a hammer, built floors, walls, and roof; ran all of the electrical and plumbing in the entire house myself (with some help from my partner and a couple friends) and built a substantial portion of the house that we live in. We contracted out the finishing, because I had to get back to work.
I do not want to mislead you. I hired crews to do most of the construction. I am pretty handy with tools, but I cannot build a whole house all by myself. That’s what I meant by saying that “I supervised construction.” I ordered materials, supervised workers, and also helped with construction, but I didn’t do it all.
But man, those three hot summer months of home-building were the toughest working months of my life. I built up muscles in areas that I didn’t know I had! I had a great tan, too… and was about as fit as I would ever be.
The house was close to being finished when my mother passed away suddenly on September 11, 1998. It was a long journey coming out to my Mom and having her grow to know my partner. My partner was the only “in-law” designated by my mother to be a pallbearer at her funeral. Goes to show that my Mom came around to knowing that I was happy with my man, and he was a good person who she knew would take care of me after she was gone.
The move-in to our house in early October of that year was busy, but solemn. I inherited some of Mom’s furniture that my siblings agreed that we should have. As I look around today, I see those furnishings and think of my Mom often.
And all the while — I was taking classes toward my doctorate. I really (really really) don’t know where I found the time!
In summary, those years from 1989 through 1998, where I developed a better sense of who I was as a gay man, met the man I eventually married, built our forever house, bought my first Harley, and established myself in the community where we live and in my profession. I was becoming internationally known and on-demand for more and more travel on the “rubber chicken speaking circuit.” These were very busy times indeed, and I was beginning to show signs of becoming very weary of traveling 80% of the year. I was really ready to settle down with my man.
Regrets? No… other than perhaps not getting enough sleep and traveling too much. Tune in to a future post when I actually finish that elusive doctorate, the house is finished, and we set forth on what will become our “happily ever-after” whilst engaging in unexpected heavy caregiving for uncles, my aunt, and not so long ago, my partner-fiance-spouse, and now the mother-in-law.
Tune in next time for Part 7: Don’t Live Regrets: Make It Happen.
Life is short: make your life happen!